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London/Paris - First Time Traveling with 12 & 9 Year Old

June will be the first time we are traveling as a family to London (4 days) and Paris (3 days). We have a boy and girl, 12 & 9 years old, in the planning stages now. Would appreciate any suggestions for sightseeing that would be enjoyable for both. Will be taking the train from London to Paris. Thank you!

Posted by
3175 posts

You will have a great time. If your kids are Harry Potter fans, you should get tickets now for the Warner Brother studios. Tower of London. British Museum even if they don't like museums-mummies, Rosetta Stone. Have them watch the appropriate videos on this website to see what appeals to them. They may prefer sandwiches from Marks and Spencer over eating out and it's much cheaper.

Posted by
26 posts

Do you think they would enjoy Stonehenge? Thank you for the info!

Posted by
8889 posts

No, Stonehenge is a rather boring collection of large stones in a field near a main road. It is not what they look like, it is what they are, they have there a very long time (~3000 BC). Not good for children.

If you want a day trip out of London, choose Windsor, a real castle. This is an easy trip by commuter train.

Posted by
7682 posts

We looked at the Harry Potter tours and then created our own from their itinerary.
Our grandkids, similar ages, loved The Tower of London, The British Museum, Westminster Abbey and having Fish and Chips. They didn’t want to leave London to go to Paris. They enjoyed Paris but loved London.

Posted by
4654 posts

Do you think they would enjoy Stonehenge? Thank you for the info!

What do you think? They're your kids, you know them well, we don't.

My then 13 year old found them very interesting but he's into history so they suited his interests. My then 10 year was bored stiff. Some kids enjoy the stones (and the accompanying visitor centre) others don't, it all boils down to what interests them (the same with adults). Don't feel obliged to see them if there is no genuine interest, to some peple they're just a bunch of rocks in a circle, to others it's a fascinating insight into our ancient past whilst others feel a genuine spirituality with the stones.

I would suggest letting the kids watch a short documentary and then decide if it's somewhere they want to visit, this one seems suitable enough: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf7xwHFuH2o

I also find London has much more to offer kids than Paris. My children weren't particularly enamoured with Paris (neither am I) but they never tire of London. I think only 4 days in London, especially if you're considering day trips as well, is considerably short. I understand the temptation to fit both London and Paris in during one visit but 7 days is no time at all and I would recommend either spending it all in London and take a day trip or two or if you're still set on Paris then stick to London without the day trips.

Posted by
1198 posts

Ive travled in Paris with my kids that age. The Catacombs were the favorite. Of course the Eiffel tower. Napoleans tomb and the Army museum were hits. So was Notre Dame, and they liked St Chapelle. The Louvre is huge and overwhelming but Orsay is manageable and has the clock from Hugo. Ad of course "taste testing" gelato every day of the trip (different venues every day, and then we compare flavor, texture, consistency, etc ;) )

Posted by
3107 posts

We didn’t have time to go to the WB studio for our Harry Potter experience but our granddaughters loved the London Walks tour we took in London. http://www.walks.com/popular-walks/harry-potter

Many of the great museums in London are free so plan to visit a few if there is interest.

Posted by
351 posts

With my 11 year old, we did a special access tour to Stonehenge that included a stop in Avebury where they handed out dowsing rods for everyone to try. This was 15 years ago, but if I went to Stonehenge, I would look for that. Standing within the circle with a dozen people was much more exciting.

In Paris, a bike tour of Versailles was very well received as well. We used Fat Tire Bike Tours. Even back in the day where you had to haul the rental bike on the train and take it to Versailles, this was a great trip, including a picnic in the gardens and getting to see a lot more than shoe leather usually allows.

Posted by
901 posts

You know your kids best and what they are interested in, so take what we all say with a grain of salt. We are going with our 9/12 year olds (will be 10/13) next year and we are planning on doing Windsor Castle, St. Paul's, British Museum, Harry Potter studio tour, a West End theater show (probably Aladdin or Lion King), and the Imperial War Museum, as well as eyeing Big Ben somewhere in there. (DH and I in the past have done Churchill War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, Bath/Stonehenge, Tate Modern, Changing of the Guard, River Thames cruise, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and Harrod's. Of those, I think my kids would only be interested in Westminster and the Tower of London, as well as the river cruise.)

As far as Paris goes, the Eiffel Tower is a must, the Lourve is cool (they'll like the Mona Lisa, but don't try to see the whole thing, it's monstrously huge and full of random art they won't care about), climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe was neat, really enjoyed Le Bon Marche department store/supermarket. Other things we did that I don't think my kids would care for is Pere Lechaise cemetery, D'orsay museum, Sainte-Chapelle church, and Notre Dame church. (ND, while neat, is dark and not as cool as other churches in Europe like Sagrada Familia or Westminster, IMHO.)

You will have lots of fun regardless - happy traveling!

Posted by
690 posts

You have already received great advice. I agree with the recommendation to get the kids involved with what they are interested in. There are a few additional suggestions:

London:

Paris: I took 12 and 15 year old boys to Paris and they loved:

  • Notre Dame
  • Pompidou (over the Orsay and the Louvre)
  • Viewing traffic from the top of the Arc de Triomphe—had to sit there for 30 minutes waiting to see if there was a collision, they were fascinated by the car ballet
  • Sewer tour
  • Eating—even today what they remember is the food, shopping at the local markets, and bread
  • Effiel Tower on Sunday morning—the day after the night before was fascinating to them
  • Bateau Mouche

Have a great trip.
Sandy

Posted by
3619 posts

...get the kids involved with what they are interested in.

Agree whole heartedly! Get them involved in the research and let them do some of the decision making. Not saying they should rule the roost, but the more involved they are the less chance of having to deal with "unhappy campers".

Posted by
26 posts

Appreciate all the suggestions and information provided. All of us are looking forward to planning our June trip!

Posted by
1154 posts

Eurostar tickets for June are likely on sale now and will get much more expensive as your travel date draws nigh. Check out Eurostar.com to purchase tickets and avoid any other sites that sell them, especially Rail Europe. You would probably like a group of seats for the four of you around a table, which you can find on the website.

Posted by
11286 posts

If you want Rick's ideas on the subject, note that his Paris and London books have specific chapters on seeing these places with kids. However, these chapters are only in the "big" books on the cities themselves, not the Pocket Paris/Pocket London books, or the country books (France, Great Britain, England).

A general tip is to make sure that everyone understands that with only 3 or 4 days, they won't see everything they want. Conversely, it's good to make sure everyone gets to see at least one of their absolute "must sees," so they're less upset at what they miss.

Posted by
5456 posts

Everyone has their preferences for sightseeing.

I find several British have posted remarks wondering why Americans want to visit Stonehenge. Having visited Stonehenge as well as Stone Circle and another Stone Circle in the Lake District, I found them all worth of a visit. They are not the Pyramids of Giza, but I find them fascinating.

Having traveled a lot with kids from ages 5-17, I think kids would enjoy Stonehenge. When my Wife and I did it, our grown kids didn't come with us. My kids enjoyed a variety of things, for example: Eiffel Tower in Paris, Golden Ride in Venice, Sistine Chapel in Rome.

On our 2017 trip to England and Wales, we stopped in Warwick for a night and visited that city as well as Warwick Castle. I think your kids might enjoy that experience. We saw more kids there than anywhere during our 28 day trip in the UK.

Posted by
2023 posts

All these suggestions are great but I have to add the Sherlocks Holmes Museum--it was our Tweens idea and they loved it. You may need to book ahead for the catacombs -they enjoyed that as well. The first place in London they wanted to see was Harrod's but both being girls that was no surprise--your boy probably would have no interest in it.